“My grandchildren have color in their life that I didn’t have when I was their age,” Henrietta Stattel says. Henrietta loves color; growing up in World War Two Amsterdam, her childhood was markedly pale. “In our family, there were five boys and three girls. Ten of us lived in a rather small apartment. We had no heating,” she remembers. In Amsterdam, most of the trees had been cut-down illegally at night by citizens desperately in need of fuel. Henrietta recalls a pallid adolescence without greenery and flowers; the last born child in a large family, she never met her grandparents. Amidst the dark violence of war, Henrietta’s cousin was shot by German soldiers only yards from where she was living.
Shortly after immigrating to DC in 1953, Henrietta was captivated by the newfound color and life. As a teenager, she won an essay contest at the Americanization School. “I was amazed by all of the flowers,” Henrietta says; indeed, her love for DC’s landscapes and parks had inspired her winning essay on the color and foliage of the nation’s capital. After a long winter of war, she remembers, “What impressed me the most was spring in Washington in 1954.”
Today, Henrietta is the proud grandmother of 11 grandchildren. As a resident of Seabury at Friendship Terrace in Washington, DC, she now shares the verdant environment she cherished as a teenager with her young grandchildren. “They come to visit often,” Henrietta remarks about her grandchildren that live close by. Regularly, her grandchildren spend the night—playing games and enjoying the events and activities at Friendship Terrace. Henrietta and her grandchildren care for flowers on the balcony of her apartment, passing on her love for varied plants and pigments.
Recently, her extended family was together for Easter in DC; Henrietta’s Roman Catholic faith is a vital part of her life. Henrietta hopes her grandchildren inherit her love for the church, as well. As we talked, she proudly displayed a photo of her granddaughter, Alexis, hunting Easter eggs this spring. Alexis is six years old and lives with cystic fibrosis; her early life was marked by surgeries and uncertainty. As we look at family photos, however, the love in Henrietta’s voice and the joy in Alexis’ smile make it clear that, like her grandmother, Alexis now cherishes and reflects the radiant, color-filled world around her each and every day.
Grandparents’ Day is September 7th, 2014. In celebration of Grandparents’ Day, Seabury wants to share your grandparents and grandchildren stories! If you would like to share your story, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Billy Kluttz, MPA, is the New Media Coordinator for Seabury Resources for Aging. He can be reached at (202)-414-6317 or email@example.com.